In recent years, the word “superfood” has been a popular part of our culture. News articles, video testimonials, and blog posts by the thousands have been shared online. Of these so-called superfoods, one truly stands out: coconut oil. Blessed with many health benefits and uses, coconut can legitimately claim to be at the top of the superfood pyramid.
Where Does Coconut Oil Come From?
Coconut oil is produced from the coconut, which is the furry brown “nut” most of us are familiar with. The oil itself comes from the meat of the coconut, which is properly known as the kernel. Just like in other oil production methods, such as olive oil or essential oil production, the kernel of the coconut is extracted using a cold-press method. This involves pressure from an expeller, or screw press, and the heat from friction is kept to a minimum through a water-cooling system. The cooler the conditions, the purer the resultant oil. This is referred to as virgin coconut oil and is by far the highest, most pure grade available.
Unscrupulous oil producers may extract coconut oil using chemical methods, such as caustic lye, or use inferior dried coconut flesh, called “copra”, to get inexpensive oils onto the market. When selecting from the hundreds of different kinds of coconut oils available, it is critical to evaluate the production methods to ensure that the oil you choose is of the highest quality.
What are the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil?
Despite some negative press in years past about the saturated fats found in coconut oil, the oil itself has many healthful properties. The medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in the oil are used as a fast energy source by the body and are processed by the liver and the digestive system differently that saturated fats from animal sources. The ketones produced as the human body metabolizes the oil may have therapeutic effects on the brain, potentially reducing the symptoms of conditions like epilepsy and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Coconut oil can also help the body to burn fat more efficiently. Obesity is a huge concern the world over and is a major contributor to many diseases. In addition to being used as energy by the body, the MCTs can actually increase the number of calories burned, especially when compared to fats from other sources. Increased calorie burn can approach 5% or more in long-term weight loss studies. Coconut oil may also reduce appetites, encouraging us to eat less.
One of the fatty acids in coconut oil is a compound called lauric acid. It, and its metabolite monolaurin have been shown in studies to have powerful antibiotic and antifungal effects. Among the pathogens, it affects include the Candida organism, which is responsible for yeast infections.
How is Coconut Oil Used?
Using coconut oil to promote health is incredibly simple. It can be blended with essential oils to make soothing, refreshing skin preparations – simply rub the mixture on the skin and watch as it reduces inflammation and sloughs away dry skin cells. It can also be used to remove makeup and as an oil treatment for lustrous, strong, and healthy hair.
Coconut oil can be added to foods and used as a cooking replacement for other oils. Stir fries, baked goods, eggs – you name it, these foods can all benefit from the addition of coconut oil instead of traditional cooking oils. By adding it to foods, you can improve digestion, burn calories, and enjoy a more healthful, happy, and active lifestyle.
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